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This Day in My History

Singing and Driving in the Rain
 It's Hard to Type with Frozen Fingers
2002:  What Would You Do with a Brain if You Had  One?
2003:  Real Men Do Eat Quiche



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24 January 2005 - part 2

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We had just come from a funeral and I was checking e-mail when one stopped me in my  tracks:

I'm weeping because I just learned that Johnny Carson has died - but there's no one to weep with me.  It's a very lonely feeling. . . ..

Johnny Carson dead?  How can that be?

Well, the man was 79, so I suppose it's not unthinkable, but the world seems a bit emptier without Johnny in it, even though he disappeared in 1992 and hasn't been seen or heard from since, at least not by me.

I have to admire a man who has had the spotlight for as long as Carson did who is able to sink back into obscurity and stay there, zealously guarding his privacy, having had his moment in the sun and ready for some alone time.  We have all watched aging stars parading across the stage and screen long past their hey day and watched their sad decline.  Carson will forever be etched in everyone's mind as he was when he was at the pinnacle.

It seems like I've been watching The Tonight Show ever since it began.

I haven't, really.  I missed the Jack Paar years, but I began watching when Steve Allen was the host and have been watching ever since, with occasional flip flops to Letterman since Jay Leno took over for Johnny.

But Johnny will always be the one I identify with most closely.   Maybe it was because he was on the longest, or maybe it was the age I was when he took over.   Maybe it was the mix of boyish charm and charisma that made him the perfect talk show host.

There will be lots of "goodbyes" written by lots of people over the coming days/weeks, so his history before, during and after The Tonight Show will be well documented.

I'm just sitting here trying to figure out how I feel hearing the news.  The vignettes that play across my brain when I hear that the world has lost a unique individual.

I suspect I wouldn't have liked him in person.  I suspect that most of the celebrities I admire are people that I would not like in person.  But it's not their "real lives" that I want.  I have no desire to get to know a star up close and personal (well, except for Steve, of course).  It's the face that they present to the public that attracts me, and Carson was a showman from the get-go.

I loved his slapstick stuff (even though I don't like slapstick), I loved his monologues and nobody does it with quite the panache that he did.  But I think what I liked most was his interactions with his guests.  Johnny Carson was the consummate host.  He always seemed to be intensely interested in the guest, had an ability to draw out people who weren't exactly the most animated guests in the world, and seemed to let the spotlight be on the guest, and not himself.

I loved watching him with little kids and with animals.  I loved Karnak and who could forget his bit with Jack Webb in "The Clapper Caper"   and the one spontaneous ad-lib after the famous tomahawk toss.  So many memories.

I will always remember the final show and the classy farewell that he made, the tears in his eyes when Bette Midler sang to him.

Millions watched as he sat on a stool and gave his farewell to the show that had been his life for so many years:

"And so it has come to this. I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it."

"You people watching, I can only tell you that it's been an honor and a privilege coming into your homes all these years to entertain you. And I hope when I find something I want to do and think you would like, I can come back and (you will be) as gracious in inviting me into your homes as you have been."

"I bid you a very heartfelt good night."

I bid you a heartfelt goodnight, Mr. Carson.  You were a class act all the way and I thank you for the years of entertainment

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"Sometimes, when one person dies,
the whole world seems empty!"


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